By a Biometrica staffer
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced its first Continued Presence (CP) resource guide on Friday, July 30, targeted at assisting federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial law enforcement agencies nationwide with their human trafficking investigations and prosecutions. The CP guide is a tool that will help increase the likelihood of success in human trafficking investigations and prosecutions, ICE added.
The guide addresses various aspects and begins by defining CP. We delve briefly into the topic based on excerpts from the ICE guide.
Firstly, what exactly is CP? It is a temporary immigration designation provided to noncitizens identified by law enforcement as victims of a “severe form of trafficking in persons” who may be potential witnesses. It allows noncitizen human trafficking victims to lawfully remain and work in the United States temporarily during the investigation into human trafficking-related crimes committed against them, and during any civil action under 18 U.S.C. § 1595 filed by noncitizen victims against their traffickers.
It’s initially granted for two years and may be renewed in up to two-year increments. Those who are granted CP also receive federal benefits and services. The idea behind it, of course, is to provide victims of some of the most heinous crimes that exist in the world today with stability, a means of support, and protection from removal. It also improves a victim’s ability to seek justice against their trafficker, either by cooperating with law enforcement and/or filing a civil action.
According to ICE, the routine use of CP for victims fosters trust with service providers and organizations that may be a greater source of referrals for law enforcement when they know that victims will be protected if they come forward. It will, ultimately, increase officers’ ability to identify victims and traffickers, ICE adds.
Successful human trafficking investigations and prosecutions all point to using a victim-centered approach as a reason behind their success, decades of past experiences show, the guide says. This approach places equal value on the investigation and prosecution of human traffickers and on the identification and stabilization of victims of human trafficking. It emphasizes consideration of victims’ rights, safety, and interests throughout the investigation and prosecution to minimize stress, harm, and trauma.
A key aspect, the guide says, is to dispel the fear of law enforcement and deportation that human traffickers often instill in their noncitizen victims. These fears can remain even after a victim is recovered from human trafficking. CP is meant to address some of these fears and anxieties by giving them authorization to live in the U.S. with the ability to work legally and receive federal benefits available to refugees.
For a person to be considered eligible for CP, law enforcement must identify the individual as a victim of trafficking in persons who may be a potential witness in a human trafficking investigation/prosecution or who have filed a civil action under 18 U.S.C. § 1595. Officers are required to use the definition of a victim of a severe form of trafficking per the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, Pub. L. No. 106-386, § 103(8-9) as amended in 22 U.S.C. § 7102(11-12), according to which a victim is a person subjected to:
- sex trafficking, which is the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, obtaining, patronizing, or soliciting of a person for a commercial sex act either induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age; or
- forced labor, which is the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.
The second eligibility requirement, i.e., that the victim “may be a potential witness,” means law enforcement has some indication that this individual has information that could be helpful to the investigation or prosecution of the trafficker. It does not require certainty that the victim will be a testifying witness at a prosecution nor that there be an indictment or prosecution.